As the spring 2021 semester continues, students are starting to become burdened with more school work and responsibilities in their private lives. While students struggle with this balance every semester, the 24/7 availability of online learning has made this more difficult for students than in previous semesters.
According to UNCG’s Covid Dashboard, 45 percent of courses are online and 20 percent are hybrids, meaning that the vast majority of coursework at UNCG is online for the spring 2021 semester.
Wildfire, the UNCG safety and social media app has hosted many complaints from students who are learning remotely that they feel the workload has increased to unsustainable levels, even with the addition of a mental health day on March 3.
One of UNCG’s resources, the Online Learning Plan, created by Allison Flynn, states that students should create boundaries with their families and ensure that their families do not interrupt work time. There is nothing, however, to set boundaries between the school and students and there is a dearth of resources for those facing this problem.
Resources such as those provided by the New York Times in Leah Cherinkoff’s article “8 Ways to Set Boundaries Between Work and Kids,” are targeted towards employees and adults rather than students. However, some of the advice is still applicable to students.
“The only way you can get support is if you let your manager know what’s going on with you,” said executive coach and consultant Kym Harris-Lee in the article with New York Times.
This concept can apply to professors as well. While they may not always acquiesce to a student’s request, an open and polite line of communication can help. One should be willing to compromise and should have multiple ideas of how to solve the problem regarding the workload with the professor.
Another tip is to set specific work and office hours to work on schoolwork every day and to set small deadlines, according to Education to the Core’s “Ideas for Setting Healthy Boundaries While Teaching Virtually.”
“I’ve made it a point to not respond to anything over the weekend,” said teacher Lauren A. to Education to the Core. “Do it once and it becomes a precedent. I personally don’t do Zoom or any live video conferences.”
As for setting specific work hours, one should divide it up based on classes. Assign blocks between classes as time to work on a specific class’s workload. For example, if you have a two hour break between Calculus and English, it might be a good time to work on your science homework and to exclusively work on it during that time.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with these times and blocks to find the optimal time of day for you to work with the material. Put harder material closer to the optimal times for you to be awake. If you are a morning bird who has a difficult time with History class, you should work on it in the morning when you are at your best. If Math is your tough spot and you are more of a night owl, work on your math homework after dinner.
Also, make sure to schedule in time for breaks and a mental-recharge. Try to have at least one fun, non-academic activity every day. Watch an episode of your favorite TV show, watch the latest video from your favorite content creator or take up five minutes of yoga every day.
Scheduling small bits of self-care throughout your week and the day are important motivators and they help you work at your best.
Remember that teachers and professors are also struggling with similar problems and try to extend the same courtesy in building boundaries between private and school life. Try to treat people with patience because of the extenuating circumstances everyone is facing.
It is also important to make a note of these difficulties in the course evaluations each semester. While the pandemic will not last forever, your experience can be used to make future students’ easier and more manageable.
Most importantly, treat yourself with patience, as advised by the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education’s article “How to Set Boundaries with Remote Learning.”
“Cut yourself some slack,” said author Katy Farber. “Do what works for you, and let go of pressure to produce, create, or ‘better yourself.’ You are enough right now. You? Are frankly amazing right now.”